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New ordinance requires some Houston businesses to have surveillance cameras, share footage if HPD asks

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Outdoor surveillance cameras will be required at certain types of businesses starting Tuesday, under a new city of Houston ordinance that the ACLU of Texas calls unconstitutional.

The measure is aimed at cracking down on crime and helping Houston police solve crimes when they happen, because “technology, including but not limited to video camera footage, is helpful to law enforcement in identifying and apprehending persons alleged to have committed violent crimes,” according to the ordinance approved by the Houston City Council in April.

It requires bars and nightclubs, convenience stores, sexually-oriented businesses and game rooms to have the cameras, as part of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s One Safe Houston initiative.

“This will give the public an extra layer of safety to know that there are cameras, and you know, it just might deter the robbers,” said Tomaro Bell, public safety chair for the Super Neighborhoods Alliance. “Anything that will help them gather evidence more rapidly, I’m down with it.”

Business owners are required to store footage for at least 30 days and provide it to HPD within 72 hours if a request is made. That’s one part of the ordinance that the ACLU of Texas calls unconstitutional.

“The text says nothing about a warrant being in place before the police obtain surveillance footage,” said Savannah Kumar, an attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “What business owners need to know is that they can still demand a warrant as the constitution allows them to do.”

The ACLU of Texas has not challenged the ordinance in court, she said.

“Police surveillance doesn’t make our communities safer,” Kumar said. “This ordinance is unconstitutional and forcing people to surrender their constitutionally protected rights.”

“Police surveillance doesn’t make our communities safer,” Kumar said. “This ordinance is unconstitutional and forcing people to surrender their constitutionally protected rights.”

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Sourabh Verma franklin
Sourabh Verma,From Franklin Tn - Sub-editor in Asian News International(ANI) I am a detailed-driven journalist with 3+ years of experience in news writing and copy-editing, I can file quick, compelling and error-free stories as they break. I have sound knowledge of national and international issues and have covered stories across beats, including politics, parliament, legal and crime like drugs and Human Trafficking at Asian News International (ANI), where I currently work. Some of these include extensive coverage of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, several state Assembly elections, Parliament sessions, COVID-19 pandemic and other stories of national importance. A typical working day involves copy-editing dozens of drafts, managing junior sub-editors in shifts and keeping an eye on developing stories. This added responsibility followed a couple of years of filing stories based on press briefings, bytes and inputs from reporters on the ground.
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